Now that Froggy and Hippo are getting older (ages 8 & 5), my collection of busy bags for travel needs a make-over! And so I am starting to collect new ideas of TRAVEL ACTIVITIES FOR BIG KIDS!
These activities can start around age 5 and up. But you may need a young reader for some of them to work. Or be willing to be the reader for your child.
You might notice some similarities to the Travel Activities for Little Kids. Some activities only need a little tweaking as the kiddos get older!
One year, I decided to make a Busy Binder with all kinds of activities and a travel journal (you can read about that here and here). The journal part worked pretty well, but the binder was kind of a fail! The boys did not used them much. And I got binders that were way too big! So they were heavy and cumbersome in their carry-on luggage.
I should mention, too, that I get no compensation for any products that I recommend here 🙂
Whenever possible, I like to store my activities in a busy bag. I bought a case of pencil cases, so I could put one activity in each case. It seemed a bit pricey ($27 for 24 pouches), but the quality was SO much better than the ones I bought at the dollar store, which were not much cheaper in the end! They come in different colors, so I try to color code them as much as possible: purple, green & blue for Hippo; yellow, pink & orange for Froggy. Of course, sometimes they share!
- Mad Libs – (3 and up). You can get this Road Trip version for under $3! Okay, a 3-year-old can’t really do Mad Libs, but if you ask the right questions, he can participate, too! We started doing these when Froggy was 6 and Hippo was 3. Froggy, who goes to a Montessori school, already knew about grammar terms, so it was easy to ask him for nouns, verbs, etc. For Hippo, we would ask more leading questions like, “Name one of your toys” or “Tell us something you do – run? jump? dance?” There is also a Junior version (like this sports-themed one) that uses symbols and gives a list of word ideas.
- Lego’s for older children – (4 and up). I found this AMAZING idea for a LEGO travel storage case on Simple Play Ideas. You take a storage box (she used one from Ikea, but mine didn’t work, so I grabbed one I had bought at the craft store) and glue a LEGO board to the top with super glue. Genius!! Lego’s go inside (whatever you have from your collection), and your child can build on top. I made a smaller one for Hippo, too. (Just be sure the board has a flat-bottomed surface. I tried using a knock-off brand that wasn’t flat on the bottom, and it would not stick. So I cut up one of our green base boards, and it worked like a charm. It was worth cutting one up to make these travel boxes!) Froggy’s big box has sections inside, to keep the pieces separate. Hippo’s smaller box is just one compartment. If your child prefers to follow instructions instead of free-building with the blocks, throw in some challenge cards, like these from Life of a Homeschool Mom
- Brain Quest Flip Decks – (reading-age). As soon as your child can read, this flip deck of questions and answers can be a fun and educational item to pack in his or her carry-on or in the car. The questions are on one side of the card, and the answers are on the back. There are different levels for different ages. (If you click the link here, it takes you to school-aged levels. You can find them for younger children, too – just do a quick search!) They are held together securely to swivel. They make them for younger children, too, but someone would have to do the activities with the child. They also make workbooks.
- Travel Scavenger Hunt – (ages 5+). This one is more for a car trip. You can find all kinds of downloads out there. I made up a set specific to traveling by car in the Netherlands and Germany. You can download them on this post. And I posted about someone else’s scavenger hunt in German on this post. Use picture scavenger hunts for pre-readers, ones with pictures and words for young readers, and hunts with just words for stronger readers.
- Calculator Riddles – (reading-age). I was super excited about this idea! And with good reason. Froggy LOVED them last year! I printed out the cards and bought a small, inexpensive calculator and tossed it all into one of the pencil cases. (Although I may have gotten a calculator that was too cheap, since the battery ran out in the second week of our trip.) You just type in the numbers and turn the calculator upside down to solve the riddle!
- Hangman – (reading-age). I list this game below in the no-props-necessary section, too. But if you want to, you could print out a hangman page and either laminate it or slip it into a sheet protector. Then it becomes a dry-erase game, as long as you have a dry-erase marker. Or these dry-erase crayons (less chance for mess!).
- Geoboard with Rubber Bands – (ages 5+). This is a new activity that I will try out this summer. Hippo has been using something similar in school, so I hope he will enjoy it.
Activities to Do – No Props Necessary!
Whether you’re waiting at the airport … on the plane … for a rental car … in a restaurant …. Well, there is just a lot of waiting that happens when you travel! And waiting can make kids – and adults – cranky! So use these easy games to keep everyone occupied and having fun!
- Hangman – (reading-age). All you need is some blank paper and a pen, pencil, crayon, or marker! (Okay, those are props, but I image you have those with you!) And you can tailor the game to your child based on his or her reading level and interests. I like to play it in German, too 😉
- Scavenger Hunt – (ages 5+). Grab a copy of the airplane magazine and get creative! Can you find a picture of water? How about a woman wearing something checkered? You get the idea! You could also flip through it quickly for some inspiration … and so you know that your challenges can actually be met!
- I Spy – You know the drill! Someone picks something that they see, and then everyone takes turns asking questions to try to guess what it is. We usually give a general clue, such as a color: “I spy something yellow.”
- 20 Questions – Similar to I Spy, but instead of picking something you can see, you pick anything you want. You can ask that the “chooser” define category (animals, famous people, etc.) or give some parameter (“I’m thinking of something red.”). Then everyone takes turns asking yes/no questions until someone guesses the answer.
- Simon Says – I like this game for giving the kids some activity, but within a controlled manner. This way, the kids can get out some energy (hop on one foot five times!), but they are not running all over the place.
- The Alphabet Game – This is my personal favorite. You need to be in a place that has a number of signs – the more signs, the easier the game. You start with the letter A and try to find a word that has an A in it. Then move on to B, etc. We always take turns. We played it in the Frankfurt train station that time we waited for an hour for our rental car, and I added the rule that they had to say the word that had the letter in it. This way, they were saying German words, too 😉 (Hippo was too little to read, so we helped him out.)
- Rock, Paper, Scissors – This one doesn’t take much time, but it can be fun to play!
- Make up a story – One person could tell a story. Or tell a chain story, where one person starts, then the next person picks up the thread, and so on.
- Take pictures – I prefer not to turn to technology in these situations. But another idea is to let the kids take some pictures with your phone. You could even give them some specific instructions: Take a close-up of a family member’s eye! Find a red triangle! Get creative!
Read more about these games and situations in my post about The Waiting Game!
Travel Games & Activities for Your Destination
I’ve started bringing along some small games & activities for the boys to play at our destination. They would not necessarily play with them on the plane (not enough room) or in the car (the risk of car sickness is too high!), although that is a possibility, too. It’s more for when we are in a rental house or hotel and we all need some down time. Luckily the boys get along well most of the time and enjoy playing together 🙂 I still like to keep them in the pencil cases I mentioned earlier, as it helps to keep us organized. Here are some of the things that have worked for us:
- Yahtzee! – (recommended ages 8+). I loved playing this game with my dad when I was growing up! The box may look big, but there is not much inside. So the contents easily fit into a pencil case. Froggy has even been playing it by himself! It seems to be a favorite for both boys on this trip (2019). Oh, and right now you can get it for under $6 on Amazon (normally $12)!
- Paint by Sticker Books – (ages 5+). Both my kiddos love doing these sticker books. It’s kind of like a mosaic picture. The picture is divided into shapes that are numbered. You find the sticker with the corresponding number and shape and stick it on the picture. We have one that recreates Masterpieces by great artists. This one seems more intricate, with more stickers and smaller shapes. For our trip, I got a smaller book of zoo animals.
- Spot It! – This game comes in a tin that easily fits in your purse. It’s a matching card game. Each card had 8 images on it. When you flip over two cards, you have to be the first to find the images that match. It comes in all kinds of varieties. We have the Holiday version and one of our favorite football team.
- Some families get new small toys and activities for the trip and wrap them up. Use lots of paper and tape to make opening the gift an activity in and of itself! Hand them out every hour or so.
- Check out Target’s red dot section for inexpensive toys and such to add to your goodie bag. Nothing like NEW, even if it’s small and simple! The Dollar Store works, too.
Check back over time for more updates. As with my other page of Travel Activities for Little Kids, it will be a work in progress!